As a supplement to my previous post about intertextuality and geographical citation in Mrs. Dalloway, how intertextuality is used to portray heroism and the rippling aftereffects of war in Mrs. Dalloway needs to be briefly given further examination. In particular, the relationship between Clarissa and Septimus shall be looked at further.
In Greatness Engendered: George Eliot & Virginia Woolf, Alison Booth argues that Woolf believed women have access to a “secret form of heroism” related to epic life. Clarissa is, Booth continues, a: “living poem (who) influences moments of deeper communion because (she) is not a great man but many women to many people. (She) may even extend (her) spirit to the suffering common man, as Woolf speculates in linking Mrs. Dalloway and Septimus Smith (163).
Suzette Henke argues that Clarissa “embodies the feminine capacity to create, preserve, and sanctify life” (128). Molly Hoff also compares Clarissa to Helen of Troy, noting that Sally Seton at one point commands Peter to take Clarissa away (196).
Septimus also has some connection to heroes of the epics. The broken soldier simulates Achilles in the Iliad when he has no taste for food. In book nine, Achilles also denies himself sustenance to mourn his friends who have died in battle. In her book Virginia Woolf & The Androgynous Vision, Nancy Topping Bazin also argues that Clarissa and Septimus are linked by Aristotle’s unities of time, place, and action by outside influences like the motor car, airplane, and striking of Big Ben. Anne Fernald recently pointed out that Septimus’ doctor, arriving at the party late, is the one who breaks the news that Septimus has died.
According to Bazin, Woolf is modifying a technique she got from Joseph Conrad of “representing in different characters the selves of which a total self might be composed” (27). Woolf discusses this further in Mr. Conrad: A Conversation.